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Djokovic vs Thiem tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Thiem must beat Djokovic to reach third straight Madrid Masters final

Hannah Wilks in ATP Tour 10 May 2019
  • Novak Djokovic faces Dominic Thiem in the semifinals of the Madrid Masters
  • Djokovic vs Thiem is live from Madrid on Saturday at 4pm local/3pm BST
Novak Djokovic (PA Sport)

Novak Djokovic hasn’t been tested so far at the Madrid Masters but he faces a big challenge in the form of Dominic Thiem in Saturday’s semifinals.

Dominic Thiem has made the final of the Madrid Masters for the past two years – can Novak Djokovic stop him from doing it three years in a row?

Djokovic is no stranger to the Madrid Masters final either. He has also made the final at the Caja Magica twice, and unlike Thiem, who finished runner-up to Rafael Nadal in 2016 and Alexander Zverev in 2017, he’s lifted the distinctive trophy twice, beating Nadal in 2011 and Andy Murray in 2015.

Since winning his second title in 2015, Djokovic’s best result in Madrid was making the semifinals in 2016, when he lost to Nadal – a straight-sets defeat which, interestingly enough, followed a quarterfinal walkover from Kei Nishikori.

Three years later Djokovic is back in the semifinals in Madrid – and again it’s courtesy of a walkover, with Marin Cilic pulling out ahead of their scheduled match due to a bad case of food poisoning.

Walkovers can be a mixed blessing: Obviously they put a given player into the next round, but they can also disrupt that player’s rhythm. I actually think this one might have worked against Djokovic. He didn’t have too much to fear from Cilic, who is 2-16 against Djokovic and struggling badly with a knee injury in 2019, but he is looking for rhythm and form after a spell of poor results (by his astronomical standards, anyway): This is the first tournament since the Australian Open that he’s made the semifinals, having suffered losses, various degrees of surprising, to Philipp Kohlschreiber, Roberto Bautista Agut and Daniil Medvedev.

Novak Djokovic in action in Madrid (PA Sport)
‘Marin is a top player and he's a good friend of mine and he did text me saying he got some food poisoning,’ Djokovic said. ‘So I really hope he's going to recover for Rome. On my side, I tried to warm up and prepare for the match and then I went back on the court, trained for another hour and got a good sweat in. [I’m] happy that I'm going to be fresh for my semi-final match-up tomorrow.’

It’s hard to tell how Djokovic has been playing in Madrid, because he hasn’t faced the toughest opposition. Taylor Fritz was sub-par in the second round and isn’t the most threatening opponent for Djokovic, the Serb beating him 4-6, 2-6; and in the third round Djokovic faced Jeremy Chardy, a man who had never won a set against him in 12 previous meetings and didn’t succeed in doing so on Thursday, either.

Chardy played well in the second set against Djokovic and had break points, even a set point, but there’s still only so much you can tell from a 6-1, 7-6(2) win over the likes of the French player.
If Djokovic is yet to be fully tested in Madrid, Dominic Thiem has been comprehensively examined – and has passed with more or less flying colours.

Much was expected from Thiem coming into the clay-court season after the Austrian proved over the past few years that he’s a real threat on clay, even reaching the French Open final in 2018, and then showed he can beat the best to win big titles when he claimed his maiden Masters 1000 Series title at Indian Wells, beating Roger Federer in the final. So far, he has more or less delivered: An early exit from the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters, where he has never thrived, at the hands of Dusan Lajovic was erased from most people’s minds when he beat 11-time champion Nadal in the semifinals of the Barcelona Open and went on to claim the title.

Thiem didn’t make a great start in Madrid where he dropped the first set to big-serving Reilly Opelka before the American retired in the third set, but he’s more than made up for it with two stellar wins in the next two rounds. Up against Fabio Fognini, the recent Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters champion, in the third round, the two men who have beaten Nadal on clay this year battled it out in a really brilliant duel of clay-court shot-making which was no less impressive for the fact that Thiem won it in tight straight sets, 6-4, 7-5.

Dominic Thiem (PA Sport)
And yet it was not the same Thiem that started the match against Federer in Friday’s quarterfinals. The Austrian – perhaps nervous, perhaps caught off guard by Federer’s ultra-aggressive approach to the match, not what one expects on this surface – made a cluster of unforced errors and trailed 0-3 almost before the match had started. Not only did he lose the first set 2-6, he failed to break Federer when he had the chance, letting five break points slip by unconverted in the second – most egregiously when Federer held from 0-40 at 3-3.

Beneath the frustrations of the day, though, Thiem clearly had enough bone-deep confidence in his game and form at the moment to go for his shots when it really mattered – in the second-set tie-break, when he saved two match points and rebounded from failing to convert five set points to punish Federer when he finally overreached himself on the second-serve and volley technique he’d been pushing his luck with throughout the match. 

Federer switched tactics in the third set, attacking the net a bit less and playing with more topspin from the baseline, but Thiem had the upper hand in the decider: Finally converting his ninth break point, he was broken back for 4-4 but immediately rebounded to re-establish the break and served out the match for a big win.

After a grueling match against Fognini and the lengthy battle against Federer, which will have been taxing emotionally if not physically, Thiem is definitely at a disadvantage energy-wise against Djokovic – but he’s also had to find some of his absolute best tennis in Madrid, and knows it’s there as and when he needs it. Djokovic’s form is much more of a question mark.

Djokovic has a 5-2 lead in the head-to-head, including two clay-court wins over Thiem that deserve to be called trouncings – a 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 win at the French Open in 2016 and a 6-1, 6-0 crushing at the Rome Masters almost a year later. Thiem did win both their more recent encounters, ending Djokovic’s title defense 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-0 at the French Open in 2017 and backing up that win 6-7(6), 6-2, 6-3 at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters last year. But it’s difficult to know how much to read into any of these matches, really; Thiem is a much better, more confident and self-assured player than he was when he lost those one-sided matches to Djokovic; Djokovic was physically and emotionally compromised when he lost their more recent matches. 

Under the circumstances, one puts one’s faith in form, and Thiem has the recent form, the confidence, the conviction to beat the Djokovic we’ve seen so far in Madrid and reach his third final at the Caja Magica. 

Djokovic vs Thiem Madrid Masters tennis is live from Madrid on Saturday at 4pm local/3pm BST

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Djokovic vs Thiem tennis live streaming, preview and predictions – Thiem must beat Djokovic to reach third straight Madrid Masters final

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